Transitions and Community

One picture showing some of our current community (friend Rebecca and husband Trip are right behind Allison and I for example)
One picture showing some of our current community (friend Rebecca and husband Trip are right behind Allison and I for example)

A couple days ago I wrote some more about transitions.  Out of that conversation and a request for input on what to write my next post about, my friend and soon to be pastor, Rebecca Sullivan asked me to “continue thinking about transitions and finding community.” So out of that request comes what follows. I think it also hearkens back to other community pondering posts from a few months ago. Hopefully this post is helpful for the conversation, and perhaps even helpful for you in your daily life?

Questions that come to mind when I think of this are:

  1. How do you find community?
  2. How do you create community?
  3. Where is community for you?
  4. What does community mean in the midst of transition?

There are plenty of other questions that could and probably should be contemplated when in transition and seeking to be part of community. I think these four will prove helpful starting places though. We’ll take these in order and then see where the conversation takes us.

1) How do you find community?

This is easier said than done, especially in transition. The easiest places though I think where community can emerge are around shared experiences. For example, if you are entering into school or some educational program, that’s an obvious potential community. If you are moving to a new context, traditionally if you practice and believe some kind of faith and/or religion, finding a faith community or congregation can be a way. This is becoming less and less the norm though for community building, and isn’t a norm at all for millennials.

Some other ways that one can find community might include: joining or attending a gym or fitness center; deciding to ask colleagues and their families over for dinner to get to know them; looking up alumni in your area you are transitioning too from an alma mater you share; looking at your social networking community for connections that you have in your new context; etc. My wife Allison, for example, has found a new sort of community through doing zumba a couple times a week.

Some times, if entering into a new role or company, a co-worker might invite you to join them for something. These invitations are a good way to get to know them and their families, and possibly a good way to find community.

2) How do you create community?

A gathering of Millennials, at least according to their birth Generation
A group of mostly Seahawks fans, rooting them on during the 2014 Super Bowl

Really, the opportunities for finding community are all over the board. It takes a level of willing to be extroverted usually to find that community, but you can do it. In terms of creating community, some times communities will organically emerge. Other times it takes a bit of a willingness to be outgoing to create community. This has been the case for my wife and I to some degree. It helped for us to have a community of fellow students to build from, but out of that, we still needed to have a desire to create community. We have discerned that one of our joys in life is hosting and being hospitable. So whenever we have an excuse to have a party or potluck, we are game for that. Holidays or birthdays are obvious examples, but we have also done this for a number of friends who are Northwest transplants needing or desiring a community of fellow Seahawks or Mariners fans to celebrate with (or complain about baseball with). I imagine that this could happen for hockey fans too, like my friend and mentor Lynn Hunnicutt.

Other ways you can create community, might be to invite people to join you to play a community softball or kickball game (or hockey or broom-ball if you prefer in winter). If sports aren’t your thing, hosting a board or card game night can be a good way to have a mixer and community creation time too. Of course you can always create community around making music or a book club too.

This doesn’t help the introverts much, probably. But I think if you are going to create community, it takes a willingness to invite and provide opportunity for gathering with others. The invite and opportunity don’t have to be big commitments, and often a small sort of community potluck can be the cause for the creation of community.

3) Where is community for you?

When entering and coming out of transition, this is an important question to keep in mind. I have already listed a number of different examples of how people can find community. More philosophically or theologically though, where is community for you? What does community mean for you? How you think about these questions individually, but also as a family, will shape how best to think about creating or finding community as a result, during, or as a response to your transition(s). To put it a different way, this entirely depends on your gifts, passions, and preferences. No one person’s community is really the same as another’s, so what would you like community to look like for you?

4) What does community look like in the midst of transition? 

My parents and my wife and I upon graduating from Luther Seminary (May 2012)
Many friends of ours will be joining us with Masters degrees soon. This is an obvious transition for us and our communities, but its also not something that has to mean community is lost.

That brings us to the fourth question to keep in mind. A community is often an always changing and relating thing, especially in transition. As you are in transition, those around you are also likely in some kind of transition. This could be because you are moving, that is a transition for your friends and family. This could also be, because not only are you changing in some ways, but your friend’s life is also changing- perhaps a new job opportunity, or a new child is on the way, etc.

Life means change and transition. What community looks like to me in this, is an on-going presence. Yes, life will change and community will change. But if you have a desire to be in community and have made relationships with people who share that desire to be in relationship, you will always have some kind of community around you. This might mean your family, but more than your blood-related family, those people whom you have come into relationship with in life who will be there for you, no matter what. That’s an important reminder to hold onto as life changes.

So, what does community mean for you? What have been your experiences related to community while in transition some kind? Good experiences? Bad experiences? How would you describe your life story related to these experiences? 

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